« AnteriorContinuar »
Calbeley of Lea, co. Chester.
THE reign of EDWARD III. forms the most martial and chivalrous period of English history. On the roll of the military "worthies" it producedand the brilliant category includes Edward the Black Prince, Audley, Chandos, and Manny-few names stand more prominently forward than that of Sir HUGH CALVELEY of Lea. Froissart's romantic pen commemorates with graphic force the achievements of the Cheshire knight, and it is indeed observable that the old chronicler rarely touches on Sir Hugh without placing him in the very foreground of his living pictures. The family from which this renowned warrior sprang, was a branch of the ancient House of Calvelegh of Calvelegh, in the Hundred of Edisbury, which is traced to Hugh de Calvelegh, who became Lord of Calvelegh in the reign of King John by grant from Richard de Vernon. The first Calveley of Lea was
DAVID DE CALVELEGH, (2nd son of Kenric de Calvelegh of Calvelegh,) who obtained a grant, temp. Edward III., of the lordship of Lea, in the Hundred of Broxton, Cheshire, previously a part of the extensive possessions of the Montalts and the Montacutes. He married twice: by his first wife Johanna he appears to have had four sons; the eldest of whom,
SIR HUGH CALVELEY, succeeded to Lea, and was the celebrated soldier, whose achievements have rendered the name so familiar to the historic reader. He first appears in the public events of his time as one of the thirty combatants who, in 1351, engaged, in mortal strife, an equal number of Bretons, for the purpose of deciding some differences which had arisen out of the disorders committed by the English after the death of Sir Thomas Daggeworth. The Bretons gained the victory by one of their party breaking on horseback the ranks of the English, the greater number of whom fell in the engagement. Knolles, Calveley and Croquart were captured and carried to the castle of Josselin. The Lord of Tinteniac, on the enemy's side, and the gallant Croquart, on the English, obtained the prizes of valour. Such was the issue of the famous A cross, still existing, marks the battle field, known champ des Anglois.' In a few years after, Sir Hugh commanded a divi
VOL. IV.NO. XV.
Combat of Thirty." to this day as
sion of the English forces at the battle of Auray, to which Froissart refers in the following interesting narrative.
Sir John Chandos formed three battalions and a rear guard. He placed over the first Sir Robert Knolles, Sir Walter Huet, and Sir Richard Burley. The second battalion was under the conmand of Sir Oliver de Clisson, Sir Eustace D'Ambreticourt and Sir Matthew Gournay. The Earl of Montfort had the third, which was to remain near his person. There were in each battalion five hundred men at arms and four hundred archers. When he came to the rear-guard, he called Sir Hugh Calveley to him, and said, Sir Hugh, you will take the command of the rear-guard of fivehundred men, and keep on our wing, without moving one step, whatever may happen, unless you shall see an absolute necessity for it; such as our battalions giving way, or by accident broken; in that case, you will hasten to succour those who are giving way, or who may be in disorder; and assure yourself, you cannot this day do a more meritorious service.' When Sir Hugh heard Sir John Chandos give him these orders, he was much hurt and angry with him, and said, 'Sir John, Sir John, give the command of this rear-guard to some other; for I do not wish to be troubled with it;' and, then, added, Sir knight, for what manner of reason have you thus provided for me? and why am I not as fit and proper to take my post in the front rank as others?' Sir John discreetly answered, Sir Hugh, I did not place you with the rear-guard be ause you were not as good a knight as any of us; for, in truth, I know that you are equally valiant with the best; but I order you to that post, because I know you are both bold and prudent, and that it is absolutely necessary for you or me to take that command. I therefore most earnestly entreat it of you; for, if you will do so, we shall all be the better for it; and you, yourself, will acquire great honour; in addition, I promise to comply with the first request you may make me.' Notwithstanding this handsome speech of Sir John Chandos, Sir Hugh refused to comply, considering it as a great affront offered him, and entreated, through the love of God, with uplifted hands, that he would send some other to that command; for, in fact, he was anxious to enter the battle with the first. This conduct nearly brought tears to the eyes of Sir John. He again addressed him, gently saying;
Sir Hugh, it is absolutely necessary that either you or I take this command; now, consider which can be most spared.' Sir Hugh, having considered this last speech, was much confused, and replied; Certainly, Sir, I know full well that you would ask nothing from me, which could turn out to my dishonour; and, since it is so, I will very cheerfully undertake it. Sir Hugh Calveley then took the command called the rear-guard, entered the field on the wing of the others, and formed his line. It was on Saturday the 8th of October, 1364, that these battalions were drawn up facing each other, in a handsome plain, near to Auray in Brittany. I must say, it was a fine thing to see and reflect on; for there were banners and pennons flying with the richest armour on each side; the French were so handsomely and grandly drawn up, it was great pleasure to look at them.” Froissart proceeds to narrate the vain efforts made by the Lord de Beaumonor to bring about a treaty of peace, and then eloquently describes the result. Sir John Chandos returned to the Earl of Montfort, who asked, How goes on the treaty? What does our adversary say?'
· What does he say!' replied Chandos; why he sends word by the Lord de Beaumanoir, who has this instant left me, that he will fight with you at all events, and remain Duke of Brittany, or die in the field.' This
answer was made by Sir John in order to excite the courage of the Earl of Montfort; and, he continued saying, 'Now, consider what you will determine to do, whether to engage or not. By St. George,' answered Montfort, engage will I, and God assist the right cause. Order our banners to advance immediately.'" We need not relate the details, romantic though they be, as detailed in the glowing language of the Chronicler; suffice it to add that the post assigned to the knight of Lea proved not inglorious, that, in more than one emergency, the failing forces of the English were sustained by his reserve, and that among the leaders who contributed in the most eminent degree to the famous victory of Auray, no small share of the glory may, with justice, be given to Sir Hugh Calveley.
We next find our hero, not very reputably engaged, as a Captain of the Free Companies, composed partly of disbanded soldiers and partly of banditti, who had enlisted in the service of Henry of Trastamare against Pedro the Cruel. Shortly after, however, the Black Prince having joined the army of the King of Castile, Sir Hugh placed himself under the command of his old General, the illustrious Chandos, and distinguished himself by many feats of valour at the bloody battle of Navarette.
In 1377, Holinshed relates, "Sir Hugh Calvelie was sent over to Calis, to remain upon safe keeping of that town as deputie there; and in the same year comming one morning to Bullongne, he burnt certeine ships, which laie there in the haven, to the number of six and twentie, besides two proper barks, and having spoiled and burnt the most part of the base towne, returned to Calis, with a rich bootie of goods and cattell." The same historian further informs us that this doughty knight recovered the castle of Marke, which had been betrayed by "certeine Picards stipendiarie soldiers in the said Castell," and goes on to state that "Sir Hugh slept not at his business. Shortly after Christmas, A.D. 1378, he spoiled the town of Estaples, the same daie the fair was kept there," and in the next spring, as Admiral of England, conveyed the Duke of Britany to a haven near St. Maloes, and repelled, with the most dauntless bravery, a sudden attack made by the French vessels. In 1380, he encountered the tremendous storm which destroyed a large portion of the expedition to Brittany, and was one of eight who took to the masts and cables, and were dashed on shore by the violence of the storm.
The crusade of the Bishop of Norwich against the Clementists brings Sir Hugh Calveley once more forward, "an opponent of his leader's measures in the cabinet, but a vigorous supporter in the field,"* until after a series of successes, his troops were surprised in Bergues by the French king, with superior numbers, and Sir Hugh, abandoning the contest as hopeless, returned to Calais. The following is Froissart's interesting description of the
"Sir Hugh Calveley, on his arrival at Bergues quartered himself and his men in the different hotels and houses of the town; they were in the whole, including archers, more than four thousand men. Sir Hugh said, 'I am determined to keep this town; it is of good strength and we are enough to defend it. I expect we shall have, in five or six days, reinforcements from England; for they will learn our situation and also the force of our enemies.' All replied, God assist us.'
Upon this he made very prudent regulations; on dividing his men under pennons and into companies, to mount the walls and guard the gates, he found he had numbers sufficient. He ordered all the ladies, women,
children, and lower classes of inhabitants to retire into a church, from whence they were not to stir.
The King of France was at the abbey of Ranombergues, and learnt that the English had retreated to Bergues. A council was held on the occasion, when it was ordered that the van, with the constables and marshals, should advance beyond the town and encamp on one of its sides. And the king of France, with the Dukes of Berry, Burgundy and Bourbon, would follow with the main army; that the Count de Blois and the Count d'Eu, with the rear division, should lodge themselves on the other side of the town, and thus surround the English.
This plan was executed : and the King set out from Ronombergues, attended by his whole army. It was a beautiful sight to behold these banners, pennons and helmets, glittering in the sun, and such numbers of men at arms that the eye could not compass them. They seemed like a moving forest, so upright did they hold their lances. Thus they marched in four divisions towards Bergues, to enclose the English in that town.
About eight o'clock in the morning, an English herald entered the town, who, by the courtesy of the lords of France, had passed through their army: he waited on Sir Hugh Calveley in his hotel, and spoke so loud that every one heard him. Herald, whence dost thou come?' My Lord,' replied the herald, I come from the French army, where I have seen the finest men at arms, and in such vast numbers that there is not at this day another King who can shew the like.'
And these fine men at arms which thou art speaking of,' saith Sir Hugh, what number are they?' By my faith, my Lord, they are full twenty-six thousand men at arms: handsomer nor better armed were never seen.'
'Ha, ha,' replied Sir Hugh, who was much provoked at the latter part of this speech, thou art a fine fellow to come and mock us with this pompous tale. I know well thou hast lied; for many a time have I seen the armies of France, but they never amounted to twenty-six thousand; no, not even to six thousand men at arms.'
As he said this, the watch of the town who was at his post, sounded his trumpet, for the van of the enemy was about passing near the walls-Sir Hugh then, addressing the knights and squires present, said; Come, come, let us go and see these twenty-six thousand men at arms march by, for our watch blows his horn!' They went on the walls of the place and leaning on them, observed the march of the van, which might have consisted of about fifteen hundred lances, with the constable, the marshals, the master of the cross-bows and the Lord de Courcy. Next came the Duke of Brittany, the Earl of Flanders and the Count de St. Pol, who had under his command about fifteen hundred lances more. Sir Hugh Calveley, who thought he had seen the whole army, said Now see if I did not say truth: where are these twenty-six thousand men? Why if they be three thousand menat arms, they are ten thousand. Let us go to dinner, for I do not yet see such a force as should oblige us to surrender the town. This herald would frighten us well, if we were to believe him.'
The herald was much ashamed, but he said, 'My Lord, you have as yet only seen the van guard. The King and his uncles are behind with the main army, and there is besides a rear division, which consists of more than two thousand lances. You will see the whole in four hours, if you remain here.'
Sir Hugh paid not any attention to him but returned to his house, saying